TAMPA — Using personal cell phones and tablets at school is usually a no-no.
But for Hillsborough County public school students, that’s not the case anymore.
This school year is the first of a districtwide bring-your-own-device initiative that allows students – with permission from their teachers – to use devices like smartphones, tablets and laptops for educational purposes in the classroom.
For instance, a student may download note-taking applications onto an iPhone or complete a reading assignment on an e-reader.
The district piloted the program on select campuses last school year.
Sharon Zulli – the district’s manager of technology, customer service and support – told Hillsborough school board members during a presentation Tuesday that students have been receptive to the new program.
“It’s a natural progression for us to bring them in during school time,” Zulli said. “Bring your own device is part of our bigger goal to get a lot of devices into the hands of students.”
The school board officially approved the districtwide bring-your-own-device program Tuesday.
Board members were receptive, but some said they wanted to make sure the district is very clear about the rules.
“Do we say you cannot use them during exams?” board member Candy Olson asked. “I’d like to see parents, teachers and students sit down and think through this together, maybe once a year.”
Hillsborough students join others across Florida allowed to bring their personal devices to school. Florida Department of Education spokeswoman Cheryl Etters said 14 percent of schools throughout the state allow it.
At Cannella Elementary School, 10707 Nixon Road in Tampa, fourth-grade teacher Megan Whitehead said about half her students this year have been bringing their own devices to school, mostly tablets, to use in class. They pull them out to look up unfamiliar words, read and log into Edsby, the district’s new grading portal.
Cannella is one of the schools that piloted the program last year.
Whitehead said she set rules for her students’ device use in her class.
“They can choose to read on it or do a math game,” Whitehead said. “But if in math, they finish their work early, they need to specifically do math things. During independent reading, they can have their Nooks out. It just depends on the subject.”
Here are other highlights from Tuesday’s school board meetings:
In a 3-2 decision, board members present voted to require that assistant superintendents fill out financial disclosure forms just as the superintendent, procurement staff and school principals do. Chairwoman April Griffin, who made the motion, as well as board members Susan Valdes and Cindy Stuart, voted yes. Board members Carol Kurdell and Candy Olson voted no. Board members Doretha Edgecomb and Stacy White were not present.
The board approved four administrative appointments: Jenna Hodgens will move from supervisor of charter schools to director; Armwood High School Principal Joseph West will become general manager of employee relations; Alva Simmons, an administrator on special assignment, will become the district’s supervisor of the student management reconstruction program; and Martinez Middle School Principal Dallas Jackson will become the administrator on special assignment for student management.